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Topic: Science Education


This forum is for discussion of thoughts arising from and extending materials in Serendip's Science Educaton section. Comments entered here will be automatically posted. Comments not meant to be posted can be sent by Serendip.

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Serendip's forums sometimes get longer than what can conveniently be accessed and displayed. They are, at the same time, in their entirety an important part of what Serendip has become at any given time (and, of course, particular contributions may well be of lasting significance). To try and balance needs for easy display and those of continuous and permanent record, only this year's forum comments are displayed on this page with earlier comments being preserved elsewhere. To go to the forum for prior years, click on the year below.

Year: - Current Postings - 1999/2001 - 1998 - 1997 - 1996 - 1995


Name: c
Username: l
Subject: power
Date: Sat Jan 4 00:37:02 EST 1997
Comments:
As the product of a rather liberal education, I find it sometimes dis hearteningto be not a "good person" but one who is expected to place well thanks for listening.lc
Name: Ruth
Username: maysrg@mosquito.com
Subject: Science in schools
Date: Wed Jan 8 14:07:48 EST 1997
Comments:
For the past five years I have ben an instructor at P.I.N.E.S- an environmental education program sponsored by Rowan College. Schools send us classes of children- we provide environmental lessons appropriate to the age level of the group. Sometimes the children come well prepared- it is obvious that their teachers actually care about what is being taught. Sometimes the class does not even know what the topic of the day is because the teacher did not share this information with them, much less prepare them for the lesson. This second group can be a real challenge to reach- if their teacher does not care, neither do they. Most of the children (both groups) have not been encouraged to think beyond the obvious facts to be presented. The teachers seem to see thinking on the part of their students as a threat to their authority- maybe because they feel inadequately prepared (the result of taking education courses in college, no doubt!)If we do an experiment, the kids always ask how it is supposed to come out, rather than waiting to see what actually happens. They are terrified of getting it "wrong" - the teachers feel the same way. This could be one reason there is so much "fraud" in research these days- the researchers are under too much pressure to "get it right". I also work with Girl Scouts and their leaders. At a training conference I held a science workshop for the leaders- lots of fun experiments for them to play with. These adults were actually afraid to try the experiments- they thought they might not get the right answers. I had to tell them that they would not be graded, that his was for fun. Eventually, they did loosen up and had a good time, but it was a struggle. How do we change these attitudes?
Name: Toby M Horn
Username: tobyhorn@erols.com
Subject: teacher-scientists precollege, too
Date: Sat May 17 05:57:31 EDT 1997
Comments:
As a graduate of BMC who earned a PhD and then chose to become a high school science teacher, I applaud the endeavor to revive the scientist-teacher --- and especially at the precollege level. We need people who love and understand the vagaries of exploration by thought and experimentation to work with youngsters. I believe that whether you can sit and listen is less important than whether you remain curious and try to solve problems. It is indeed disheartening that today's academic culture gives more credence to placing well. How can we convince the establishment that our children are a better investment in the long run than building jails? How can we persuade our school boards and real estate tax boards that having a lower student teacher ratio can cut crime? Why have we mechanized/industrialized schools for the most output for unit of teacher when we are trying to reduce the birthrate? My Bryn Mawr education has served me well. despite the rpessure to succeed by others' standards, I feel rich and successful as a high school teacher, though I am beginning to feel a call to encourage bright young people who love science to earn a PhD and then teach youngsters!
Name: Tania Jacob
Username: jacob@net1.nw.com.au
Subject: hmmm...
Date: Mon Jun 2 01:22:06 EDT 1997
Comments:
I wonder if people actually think in their own voices...I know i don't always. Sometimes I don't even think in words at all...what do you guys think like?
Name: Ivan Teixeira
Username: figueira@sercomtel.com.br
Subject: Getting it less wrong
Date: Mon Jul 28 08:44:51 EDT 1997
Comments:
My name is Ivan Teixeira, I'm a Biology student in Brazil and admirer of your work. I read your "Getting It Less Wrong... Teaching after Biology 101" text, which I've downloaded from the Internet. I found it so interesting that I gave a copy to my Psychology teacher. It's very good to know that someone cares about making people think of science not as science for the matter of itself, but as something in benefit of society.

One of the things I liked most was the issue about trying to make students and teachers see each other as colleagues exchanging ideas. Here in Brazil, unfortunatelly, some teachers, including those that work in the University where I study, see themselves as people that knows everything just because they are PhD. If you contest them, they may try their best in putting you in the worst situation as possible with them.

Finnally, I hope you can make even lesser and lesser wrong with your students and that those that have predicted a disaster, change their ideas and try to make science teaching even "less wrong".


Name: Paul Grobstein
Username: pgrobste@brynmawr.edu
Subject: To Ivan
Date: Mon Jul 28 08:52:30 EDT 1997
Comments:
Many thanks for taking the time to write. I'm both flattered and pleased that you found "Getting it less wrong" a good expression of some of your own feelings.

It is, I think, important to know that people in different countries/cultures/contexts feel similar frustrations, since that heops to clarify the problem and perhaps to move towards the needed improvements. If you had any inclination to write at greater length about your experiences, we'd be delighted to look at that as a longer Serendip contribution.

Knowing that others see the same problem also makes one feel encouraged about trying to do something "less wrong" oneself. Thanks for your wishes about my students. I hope you will have some impact on your teachers ... and perhaps yourself become for others the kind of teacher you'd like to have.


Name: Loren Jacobson
Username: goodjake@roadrunner.com
Subject: getting it less wrong
Date: Sun Oct 19 19:10:12 EDT 1997
Comments:
With over thirty five years of experience in materials science/metallurgy I am now contemplating another career change to Middle/High School science teacher. I would appreciate hearing about more recent experiences of yours as they relate to the teaching of "process", rather than the teaching of "material". I have believed for a long time that something has been going more "wrong" with science teaching, as we witness more confusion on the part of society regarding critical scientific issues. Thank you for your candor. Sincerely, Loren Jacobson
Name: anonymous
Username:
Subject:
Date: Wed Nov 26 10:24:29 EST 1997
Comments:
Learning physics reminds me of walking through a huge deserted carnival. There are tons of huge elaborate machinery, but no people, no clutter. Physicists try to cram people into all the machines, ignore the clutter, and then desperately try to get everything to act "just so". Anyway, here comes a physics professor now, leading his students through the deserted carnival. He points out each machine and says, "Here's what it does when people ride it." He won't put students on it and actually let them ride it because that would be messy. All the physics students stare at the vast machine with vacant looks in their eyes. The machine is just an object. They are not allowed to ride it and so will never experience just how powerful these machines are -- how they can take every perception you have and turn it around, upside down and change everything about how you see the world. The class walks onto the next machine. Like stenographers, mindlessly scribbling everything they hear. except me I'm the idiot who just stands there with my mouth hanging open. Look at that! The professor said it is called "ferris wheel". I get the pidling little yo-yo I've been trying to develope out of my pocket. Well, at least I had the rotation part right. The I toss the yo-yo to the side. How does this mother work?!? Meanwhile, two or three machines down the line, the professor has noticed that one of the students has fallen behind. He gets really irritated. "God these students are so stupid. They can't even follow when someone is LEADING them through this stuff." The physics professor gets even angrier the farther back he has to go and retrace his steps. Some of the very best stenographers see the professor's attitude and copy that too. Finally the professor gets back to the ferris wheel. He looks straight up. He knows exactly where to look -- its not like this has never happened before. He curses, "Damn ferris wheel! This is the second time this year this has happened! Fricking Wierdos! Don't they know how to follow?!?" (I'll just have to take this machine off the tour. This situation is too cluttered. These idiots can't handle anything except ideal cases.) He knows exactly where I am heading -- the control box. At first he tries to coax me down. "Bend your knee here. Put your foot there... No! No! You're not listening!" (Of course not. He's telling me how to get AWAY from the box. Duh!) "Do what I say! Do what I say!" (The professor starts jumping up and down and turns red.) "Do what I say or I'll give you an 'F' !" (Like I care. School taught me long ago that anyone who takes their education seriously shouldn't take their grades seriously) "No you idiot! You can't understand the control box!" "Why not?", I ask. "Because the instructions are written in Swahili! You won't learn Swahili until the 2nd year of graduate school!" Swahili huh? I wonder how you spell that? I wonder as I climb down. The professor thinks I am listening to him. Really I'm just climbing down to bait him for keywords. Books never say you can't understand that.
Name: Nicole M. Bliss
Username: nbliss@brynmawr.edu
Subject:
Date: Tue Dec 2 07:46:06 EST 1997
Comments:
Ok. I have a comment about the "masturbation guy". Now I know he wrote his comments a long time ago, but I just got here so here goes... I agree with him!! OUR SOCIETY TRIES TO SEPARATE PEOPLE FROM THEIR VERY OWN BODIES! We are separated from our own brains and discouraged from being comfortable with thinking. We are separated from all sorts of other bodily organs and discouraged from being comfortable with all sorts of simple human pleasures in life. (And I'm not just talking about sex.) When was the last time you enjoyed a sunset? Or enjoyed the breeze rustling through your hair? Or maybe listened to the rhythm of raindrops falling? I bet you haven't done any of that sort of stuff lately. I bet you stopped shortly after you started going to school. My point is that this discussion is NOT just about "classroom activities". And its topics shouldn't be confined to what the teachers running this website feel comfortable discussing. I also think that this website is about letting go of what other people think you SHOULD do with your brain, your education, your classroom, etc. and figuring out FOR YOURSELF how you are going to act and speak. So in particular... it doesn't matter if other people think we are a bunch of nuts just because the word (gasp!) masturbation came up. And the people particpating in this discussion should NOT have to consult others to make sure what they are posting is "safe" and "won't get them in trouble". We all seem to agree that we need to alter the current culture of education. We want students to think more, to ask more questions, to feel more comfortable participating in class room discussions. We want teachers to feel secure enough in their own adult identities so that a student/colleague with a differing opinion isn't a threat. We want...(hey you guys! Fill in the blank here! What else should happen?) We always talk about what education shouldn't be. We always stand up in the front of our classrooms lecturing about how lecturing is one of the most inefficient ways to teach. Alright that's it! We want a new education culture, right? So let's sit down and start defining it right now. You know what? I'm a student here at Bryn Mawr. And I like to think. God knows I'm good at discussions. And I'm not scared of you guys. Or anyone else out there who wants to give me an 'F' or write me a lousy letter of reccommendation because my opinion is different and I'm "just a kid". I have been thinking about this science education page alot. I think one of the central issues here is respect. Everybody here deserves respect -- teachers and students. Am I being disrespectful when I put my hands on my hips, look my teacher, Dr. So-and-So, in the eyes and say, "You know, I really really disagree with you and I think the way you are trying to make me run my education is wrong." Well am I? And if you were the teacher I was talking to, how would you handle that situation? That's a really important question. Because in an educational environment that encourages students to think, more of those types of situations should be happening. Are they? How many people disagree with the professor teaching their College Seminar course? Have you guys asked the students? What about a show of hands? If you guys ask the students, "OK. Who doesn't agree with me?" and less than 40% of the students raise their hands, then there may be a big problem.


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